Development and Autonomy : Conceptualising teachers’ continuing professional development in different national contexts

Abstract: This thesis investigates teachers’ perceptions of continuing professional development (CPD) in Germany and Sweden with a questionnaire study comprising a total of 711 mainly lower secondary teachers. Three conceptual terms are elaborated and explained. Teachers act in a CPD marketplace that is constituted by several sources of knowledge which offer opportunities for teachers’ development. How teachers act in the marketplace is a key part of their CPD culture. The study reveals similarities in the two cases regarding the importance of colleagues as well as informal development activities, but there are also significant differences. One the one hand, German teachers can be described as more active in their CPD than their Swedish colleagues in relation to particular aspects of their profession such as assessment, and more suspicious of knowledge from elsewhere, on the other.In order to understand the differences, I argue for an extended focus on the impact of the national context, in terms of socially and historically significant structures and traditions of the teaching profession. The thesis focuses on a crucial aspect with a particular explanatory value for differing CPD tendencies in various national contexts: Autonomy from a governance perspective. This phenomenon, which does indeed change across time and space, is investigated from a socio-historical perspective in both contexts, building on Margaret Archer’s analytic dualism of structure and agency, and a dual pronged model of teacher autonomy. The latter distinguishes institutional autonomy, regarding legal or status issues, from service autonomy related to the practical issues in schools and classrooms. Since these dimensions can be either extended or restricted, different categories evolve which enable us to understand the differences between the two cases.Finally, by using the findings on the German and Swedish teaching profession, a theoretical framework is presented that relates the certain forms of teacher autonomy in particular national contexts to likely CPD cultures that teachers share.

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